Will The Green Speed Discussion Never End? February 27, 2015

Will The Green Speed Discussion Never End?

By Stanley J. Zontek, Keith A. Happ, and Darin S. Bevard
May 27, 2008

Since our USGA Turf Advisory Service (TAS) course visits started in March one constant topic of conversation has been GREEN SPEED. Not one of these discussions has revolved around how to slow the greens down, especially for the average golfers who play golf for fun. Rather, greens just need to be faster. Recent wet weather has made preparation of putting greens a challenge, but with drier weather green speeds should improve.

The desire for fast greens is part of the game today. The big question that needs to be answered is, "What should be our daily green speed goal?" On too many occasions, golfers do not know how fast they want the greens, and the superintendent doesn't know how fast they should be. If you do not have a reasonable green speed goal, the push for faster, faster, faster has no end. Unfortunately, mowing grass too closely, especially during hot and wet weather, can result in the rapid decline of the greens during the summer months. This situation occurs far too often.

Here are a couple of things to consider regarding green speed. First, a reasonable daily green speed should be determined based on the greens on a particular golf course. While golfers always compare one course to another, such comparisons are seldom valid. Severely contoured greens make greens seem extremely fast compared to flatter, more subtle greens even though they have the same Stimpmeter reading. One size does not fit all.

Having a reasonable, achievable green speed goal for your greens is critical. If green speed gets too fast, hole locations are lost leading to increased traffic in smaller areas. Ultra-fast greens can slow play while contributing to weaker turf, especially in the summer.

The bottom line is that a reasonable goal should be set for green speeds. Green speeds should be monitored on a periodic basis so that feedback on the effect of maintenance programs and the weather is known. It may not be possible to achieve green speed consistency on a daily basis.

The other major topic of conversation is increasing costs for golf course maintenance. Everything from pesticides to fertilizer to labor to diesel fuel is increasing whether it is the direct price of the product or the added fuel surcharges. We have mentioned this in past regional updates. Here is the bottom line on this subject. Most operating budgets could not foresee these increases. The budget may be difficult to meet or you may have to accomplish less and expect less with the same budget. This is an important point to keep in mind as the growing season progresses and prices potentially rise even more.

As always, if the Mid-Atlantic Region agronomists can be of assistance, contact Stan Zontek ( ) or Darin Bevard ( ) at 610/ 558-9066 or Keith Happ ( ) at 412/ 341-5922.